Jessica Frew is only 19 years old, but she’s already achieved more than most of us hope to in a lifetime.
The model, who was born with Cerebral Palsy, is signed to Gamut Management, a US agency that represents people with disabilities, and last year modelled in the Runway Of Dreams wearing Tommy Hilfiger’s Adaptive Fashion range. She won’t stop there.
Jessica is now working towards an acting career, has aspirations to be in Vogue and is ready to fight for representation of people with disabilities in the entertainment industry, an area where they are almost entirely invisible.
Here, Jessica tells Wear Next about her dreams, those who have inspired her, and why you should never give up on what you want.
What inspired you to start modelling?
I always felt like I wasn’t good enough and people treated me differently when I was growing up, but when I saw Michael Fowler in Speechless, I thought I can accomplish anything if I put my mind to it. That’s when I first realised I wanted to get into modelling and the entertainment industry.
Later on, I started to think, ‘What if I’m not good enough, pretty enough or old enough?’ so I pushed my dreams to the side. Then around the same time, I found out my mother had cancer. She was fighting and wouldn’t give up, and she inspired me not give up on anything, so I started to research modelling agencies and I came across Gamut management. I contacted them and had an interview, and that’s when my career as a model and an advocate for people with disabilities started.
You modelled in the Runway of Dreams Adaptive Fashion Show at New York Fashion Week last year. How did that feel?
It was the most amazing thing I could imagine being ever a part of in my life. Honestly, I don’t even have the words to describe what that moment felt like. It was both nerve wracking and exciting at the same time, because it was my first ever time modelling for a big brand. While I was doing it, I realised, ‘Oh my God, my dream is coming true!’
You’ve achieved so much already, but what are your dreams for the future?
I’m trying to work to get myself in Vogue magazine in the future, but mostly I’m looking forward to a career that will help to make a difference in this industry for people with disabilities.
How would you like to see the fashion industry change in terms of adaptive fashion and the inclusion of people with disabilities?
I believe fashion brands should make adaptive clothes a category, just like they do with petite or plus-size clothing, and I strongly feel all fashion brands should open up to diverse models. Some still don’t want diverse models representing their brands to this day, and it seriously has to change.
Which are your favourite adaptive fashion brands?
Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive, Zappos Adaptive, and Patty Emmerich.
Who are your biggest inspirations?
I would have say my mother is my biggest inspiration in life. When I was growing up, my mother would always tell me, ‘You always have to be yourself. Never care what people think about you or your disability, and most importantly, always fight so hard for what you truly want to do in life because you can accomplish anything if you fight for it.’ She’s fighting her cancer with a positive attitude and won’t give up.
As well as being a model, you’re an actress too…
Last summer, I had my first audition for the role of Morgan Stark in Coming Of Age. In that moment, I felt the character came completely naturally to me and I felt so confident in front of the camera.
When I’m reading/pre-programming my lines into my Eyegaze computer, I realise I can make a difference in the entertainment industry. There’s a very small percentage of disabled, non-verbal actors in the industry and my dream is to open opportunities up for other non-verbal actors with communication devices. I want to show producers they can act, just like every other verbal actor in this industry, but they just need to give them a chance to prove themselves.
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